- Brian Donaldson
- 18 January 2021
A decent drama with weirdly pitched comedy about a grieving partner left to tidy up several big messes
In Honour, Keeley Hawes' most recent work on ITV, she was grimly authoritative, a formidable presence of sincerity and empathy in her role as real-life detective Caroline Goode as she investigated the murder a young Asian woman. As DCI Goode, Hawes appeared to be permanently on the brink of tears or vomiting. In Finding Alice, she is asked to convey a similar set of emotions once again, but added on are near-violent shifts into a comedic gear, occasionally veering into full-on farce.
It's this tonal lurch that represents the key problem with a six-parter in which Hawes plays Alice Dillon whose partner Harry Walsh (Jason Merrells) has fallen to his death down the bannister-free stairs of the fabulous new 'smart-home' he designed and built. His untimely end triggers a whirlwind of unveiled secrets, harsh family recriminations, visceral grief and, most weirdly, wildly inappropriate comments made by Alice to all and sundry. One minute she's so burdened by misery that the thought of seeing her husband's body in the morgue is unbearable, the next she's slagging off another corpse for being fat right in front of the mourning family.
As one of the Finding Alice co-writers, Simon Nye has produced bittersweet, sensitive comedy-drama in the shape of How Do You Want Me? and loutish lager-scented fare with Men Behaving Badly. Someone has been unsure exactly where to pitch Finding Alice, so Nye has gone for a pick'n'mix of those two extremes, a tactic which merely leaves the watcher baffled and annoyed.
The ultimate saving grace of Finding Alice comes via a series of enjoyable performances. Hawes is always good even when laden by some terrible dialogue, Isabella Pappas as her equally grieving teenage daughter Charlotte delivers a strong performance, while the two sets of elder parents (Nigel Havers, Joanna Lumley, Gemma Jones and Kenneth Cranham) are uniformly excellent. Once you get past those uglier clashes of tone and verity, there's a perfectly decent Sunday-night drama here about the various ways in which the death of a loved one can hamstring a human. Still, if you can't get past a jaunty theme tune that also fails to judge the room, no one will blame you for it.
ITV, Sundays, 9pm; all episodes available now on ITV Hub.